Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State on Thursday night reiterated his commitment to the All Progressives Congress, APC, in reaction to a statement credited to his former Chief of Staff and Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike, that he was planning a comeback to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, through the ‘back door’.
The governor, who spoke to reporters on the sideline of the inauguration of Port Harcourt as the World Book Capital 2014, vowed that he would not succumb to pressure from some unnamed PDP leaders to return to the “dead” party.
When reminded that he had given a condition – that the Federal Government returns the state’s oil wells in Kalabari and Etche, ceded to neighbouring Bayelsa, Abia and Imo states – for his return, the Nigeria Governors Forum chairman said he would adopt a wait and see approach before deciding his next line of action.
While admitting that there are ‘wonderful men and women’ in the PDP, Amaechi noted that there is a world of difference between him, APC and the PDP that would make his return difficult if not impossible.
Amaechi said yesterday: “I am not returning to the PDP. That man (Wike), they should check him whether he is okay. I have finished with the PDP”.
On his promise, he said: “Well, I had made a promise that if they returned the Kalabari oil wells I will return to the party, well that is a different thing. Let’s see that happen. The real thing is that there are issues that are fundamentally different between myself, the APC and the PDP. If I am progressive, I must be progressive and I must see it in the type of life I live, what I do and what I say and how I relate with the people, the type of governance. You can’t carry out a socialist programme like this free education, properly free education where children are given laptops, free uniforms, fed and sent home. There are so many of these things we run that are contrary to the ideology of PDP. But there are wonderful men and women there“.
“Beyond the oil wells, I have told them, they have approached me. If they want, I will call the names of those that approached me, but that is not an issue. There are issues that are fundamentally different. If I am a progressive, it must be seen in the type of life I live, in what I do, how I relate with people and the type of governance.
“I said people should ignore him (Wike). Are you sure that if I tell the PDP that I am coming back in 10 days, they will not send a dance party here? One problem with leadership in Nigeria is that when you are a president, a governor or a minister, what you say must be factual. You cannot be part of gossip.
“So, that young man (Wike), who claims to be Minister of State for Education, who does not know what it means to be a minister, is saying I am begging to come back to the PDP. What is the PDP? I beg you, please, do not ever ask me question about that young man (Wike), because I will not answer you”.
On allegations by the opposition that his administration was heavily indebted and was still piling on the state’s debt profile, Amaechi said it was not true, assuring that he would clear every kobo his government was owing before his administration terminates in May next year.
He also stressed that his administration had already cleared most of its debt, adding that it had also put measures in place to ensure he handed over a debt free state to his successor.
“Why have you not seen the name of Rivers state among the states owing the country? We have paid down to eighty billion and we will finish paying that by June so we will be free from debt. The reason we are not on the list of indebted states is because we pay what we owe and put the rest on project. Just check, if we are so indebted why are banks chasing us around, wanting to give us money in spite of all the noise by the opposition? It is because they see the way we pay”, Amaechi said.
Amaechi also stated that his administration’s initiative had moved from the Garden City Literary Festival to the Port Harcourt Book Festival and also progressed to the stage of establishing a book centre, worth N3.5 billion, not owned by the State Government, but by a non-governmental organisation, the Garden City Literary Association
He further stressed that his administration’s efforts in the education sector might be responsible for the nomination of Port Harcourt as the World Book Capital 2014.
The Rivers governor said: “The second transformation is, somewhere along line, she (Mrs. Koko Kalango, the Project Director of the Port Harcourt World Book Capital 2014) brought the idea of competing for the World Book Capital and I said, that will not be a bad idea.
“So, we funded her to compete and we won the nomination. It was wonderful that she did that. When she came to me and said we won, I now asked her what the World Book Capital is all about and she explained that it is like the Kane Festival by film makers and that is what it is to book readers.
“We budgeted nearly N4 billion for the World Book Capital. We are building libraries, but I call them reading rooms, in the city. They are about seven and we are having 23 in all the local government areas. We will equip and furnish the libraries”.